Aleksey Navalny is a generally unpopular political agitator in Russia whose ambitions to achieve a position of power far outweigh any personal credibility let alone realistic plans for government.
One of the many reasons he remains deeply unpopular in Russia is because he has tried to import the most vile style of European far-right nationalism to a country that has a much broader and deeper patriotic definition of nation than the kinds of ethno-nationalism that have plagued Europe for centuries.
He combines his programme of ultra-right obscurantist nationalism with a more recently adopted hatred of peaceful Russian Muslims as well as his lifelong advocacy for the kind of neo-liberal corporatist economics that failed in Russia in the 1990s, before failing more widely in Europe and the United States in the early 2000s.
His biggest calling card is that he presents himself to western mainstream media as a kind of ‘oppressed opposition leader’ in Russia, when the truth is that he often struggles struggles to get people to his rallies. When he does get people onto the streets they are usually a combination of his close colleagues and those paid by foreign NGOs, combined with young people who are misinformed about his actual policies but simply want to be part of a rebellious fashion statement.
Few people in Russia care for what he has to say which is why he typically resorts to illegal public disturbance stunts in order to get himself a measure of fame, something which is distinct from a measure of popularity which he has consistently failed to achieve.
Today, on the national holiday of Russia Day, he planned a demonstration in Moscow that the authorities fully allowed. However, failing to achieve the kind of attention he craves, he then decided to move his rally from the legally sanctioned location to Tverskaya street.
In doing so, Navalny has got what he wants, he has been arrested which is something that strangely makes him happy as it plays into the narrative that he is an ‘oppressed moderate rebel’.
The reality is that in Moscow like in Paris, Berlin, New York or London, if someone tries to conduct a large, noisy, traffic blocking, pedestrian inconveniencing event without prior legal sanction, they will be told to move on and if they don’t they’ll be arrested.
Some in the western mainstream media as well as Russia’s own liberal media will surely give Navalny the air time he wants once the handcuffs are unlocked.
When it comes to Navalny, a certain phrase from the popular cartoon South Park springs to mind…
But in the case of Navalny, there really is nothing to see, that is unless you like seeing a combination of racism, religious hatred, neo-liberalism and media whoring on full display.